NE Minnesota Moose Decline Continues

Moose on Gunflint Trail MN, photo by Timothy Eaton

The decline in northeastern Minnesota’s moose population continues, according to new survey data released by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources this week. An aerial survey done in January estimated that 5,500 moose reside in northeastern Minnesota.

The news comes as Voyageurs National Park begins a year-long study of the animals in the park — as we reported HERE on Monday — to better understand the reasons for the decline.

The DNR survey results, highlighted in THIS media release,  showed the moose population overall and the proportion of cows accompanied by calves continuing on a 13-year decline. The calf-to-cow proportion dropped to a record low of 28 calves per 100 cows in the survey.

Last year’s survey found 7,600 moose in the region, but researchers note that they don’t think 2,100 animals were actually lost in 2009.  Mark Lenarz, the DNR’s forest wildlife group leader, told the Duluth News-Tribune’s John Myers, HERE, the figures from the last two surveys likely show high and low statistical aberrations in what is a gradual population decline.

Analyses by Lenarz and other scientists indicate a significant relationship between warmer temperatures and mortality not caused by hunting. “Moose are superbly adapted to the cold but intolerant of heat,” Lenarz said, “and scientists believe that summer temperatures will likely determine the southern limit of this species.”

Last August, a Moose Advisory Committee convened by the DNR released findings which will be used in the development of a legislatively mandated research and management plan. They indicated that while climate change is a long-term threat to the moose in Minnesota, the species will likely persist in the state for the foreseeable future.

The management plan should be ready later this spring and will be open to the public for comment.

Read the 2010 aerial survey report in full HERE.

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